Easter 4 A – Good Shepherd

Pope John Paul II, the good shepherd.  

The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of our late Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, was made by the famous televangelist Billy Graham. In a TV interview he said: “He lived like his Master the Good Shepherd and he died like his Master the Good Shepherd.” In today’s gospel, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd and explains what he does for his sheep. (Fr. Tony Kadavil) 
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

Who do we follow? This is the question that today’s gospel puts before us. Many of us would like to think that we follow no one, that we make our own decisions and choose our own paths. Yet, our experience tells us that we are often led — look at advertising
— and often led astray: look at how many brigands have incited human beings so that the worst of crimes and destruction have been justified? But the choice of Christ as our shepherd is the choice to bear witness to the victory of life, and love, and forgiveness over the forces of death, domination, and vengeance. So where do we stand in terms of calling ourselves disciples?                                       


From Father James Gilhooley  

September 11, 2001, the Pentagon was slammed by a hijacked airliner. People were trapped in the flaming building. A police officer ran inside and kept repeating in the darkness, "Follow my voice." Six people did. They owe their lives to that voice.  
This parable has lost impact in our urban society. A city kid in a college Scripture class told his professor, "I don't get any kicks being called a sheep. They're stupid and are led around." A farm boy didn't buy it: "I've seen a herd of sheep running wild. And could they move! If my father hadn't called to them and corralled them, they would have torn up our whole place." The city boy stayed quiet. To control sheep the shepherd must be Superman. City slickers need not apply.  

 I was traveling through the Holy Land. I saw a shepherd with his large flock. I checked him out. Neither of us could speak the other's language. We didn't have to really. He was all muscle. The staff he was carrying in his hand would make a serious impression on my head. I felt like the 100 pound weakling that everyone kicks sand on at the beach. If there was going to be trouble, I wanted him on my side. Better, I would be standing right behind him.  

 God's image as Shepherd did not originate with Jesus. It preceded Him by centuries. One finds the figure of speech strewn throughout the Old Testament like a common pebble. You will discover it in the Books of Zechariah, Isaiah, Ezechiel, and Jeremiah for openers. And don't forget the celebrated 23rd Psalm which is our Responsorial Psalm today: "The Lord is my shepherd." The early Christians enjoyed the shepherd analogy. Matthew  

 and Luke as well as today's John applied it often to their Leader. Among the earliest pictures, perhaps the earliest, we find of Christ on catacomb walls is the young Jesus dressed as a shepherd with a sheep over His shoulders. It remains ever popular.  

 St Augustine used the shepherd analogy for the apostles themselves in the fifth century in The City of God: "The first holy men were shepherds."

 A lot of us feel boxed in by life. We are unwilling characters in a nihilistic Jean-Paul Sartre drama. Our options we tell ourselves are limited. There is no way out. Consequently clinical depression is becoming an increasing phenomenon among us. Along comes Jesus the Shepherd to tell us, "I am the gate." In another spot, He repeats the point, "I have opened a gate in front of you." If we are as sharp as we say, we will use the Shepherd as the way to make our break-out into green Elysian fields. We will run through His gate, bang it behind us, and never look back. (Joseph Donders)  

 Secondly, shepherds know their sheep by name as John tells us today. Marry that thought to the scriptural report that God writes the names of each one in the palm of His hand. Imagine your name on the lips of God Himself in His role as the Shepherd as He calls to you. If I am going to be anybody's sheep, then let it be Christ's, a certified 2000 year old winner. I do not wish to be forever a nine digit number that can only be traced by a Big Brother computer. I want a Christ who knows my name, my features, and my requirements better than the back of His hand. The sweetest sound in the world, said the monk, is the sound of your own name. Compare that to the guy who says to you for the fourth time, "Sorry, but I forget your name again." (Donders)  

 I buy into the Good Shepherd analogy. I need a strong pull in the right direction. I've been dumber than many sheep. There have even been occasions when I wish I had that ring right through my nose. I wish Jesus had been pulling it. I need to hear His strong voice I need a shepherd to lead me. Unhappily I need one who will even kick me in the tail. I don't need a general barking orders and staying behind the battle line.  

 Conscience is the e-mail your head gets from the Shepherd, saying to you, "Follow my voice. You have nothing to lose but your sins." (Billy Graham) So, the Lamb who died to save us is also the Shepherd who lives to lead us. Christianity remains the religion of the incredible, the religion of the astonishing, the religion of the breathtaking. (Unknown)  

 Incidentally, a friend said to me, "Someone told you about the Good Shepherd. Have you told anyone lately?" I have. I've just told you. But have you?   

Prayer Reflection (Michael De Verteuil)
 Lord, we remember with gratitude the great people we have known,
       in the world and in our country:
       teachers, fellow workers, community leaders,
       parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts, elder brothers or sisters.
       We remember how they came to us openly, without pretense,
       passing through the open gate.
       We knew immediately it was someone who understood us,
       a voice we had always longed to hear.
       We felt we were being called one by one, each by name.
       They said what they had to say and went ahead,
       not looking back suspiciously to make sure we were following,
       and we did follow because we knew we were not with a stranger.

       Lord, we ask you to bless leaders in our country and in the world.
       Give them today the grace to look into their hearts
       and ask themselves are they real shepherds of the flock.
       Have they come openly through the gate like shepherds, or deviously like thieves?
       Have they come to give life or to steal, kill and destroy?
       Do they speak a foreign language that the sheep cannot recognise
       so that they naturally run away from them?
       Do they take the trouble to know their sheep
       so that they can call them out one by one, by their own names?
       Is their relationship with people one of trust,
       freeing them to go ahead of the flock,
       or must they always be looking back, wondering if they are being followed?

       Lord, we ask you today to send us many good priests and religious,
       men and women who will be like a gate to a sheepfold,
       without the slightest trace of possessiveness,
       happy to be a passageway
       through which many will pass freely and live life to the full.

       Lord, we pray for the Church
       as it emerges among the ancient cultures of Asia, Africa and Latin America,
       as it exists side by side with other faiths.
       We pray that we may not be envious of things that others have and we don’t,
       that we may never be destructive or the cause of people or institutions dying,
       but rather that we may be true shepherds
       whose only concern is that people may have life to the full.

Happy Mothers’ Day 

Journey to Hope  

 Message: By opening to Jesus, you become part of a spiritual family. Jesus himself is the gate, the door to that enduring home.  

 Happy Mother's Day! At the end of Mass we will have a blessing for all moms. This includes moms with a new baby inside. If you haven't told the dad (smile), you may give a quite a surprise when you come forward!  

 During the Easter season I'm focusing on a theme important to everyone, but especially young parents: the journey of hope. We need hope to keep going. All of us, of course, have certain hopes - what Pope Benedict refers to as "greater and less hopes."* We hope for things like financial security, health, a "soul mate," a legacy, a better world for our children.  

 The question, however, is what is one's fundamental hope - one that will give meaning and purpose to everything a person does. We have seen that that hope can only come from God. Apart from God what marks a man's life are anxiety, loneliness, even misery.** We saw that Jesus offers a remedy for misery: mercy. The Divine Mercy. "Peace be with you," says Jesus. "Do not be afraid." When we open ourselves to Jesus, to his mercy we connect not only with him , but with every other believer.  

 I explained this in the homilies over the past three weeks, beginning with Easter Sunday. You can actually find them online and download them to your computer or iPod. One guy told me that he listens to my homilies before he goes to bed - and that he has never slept better!  

 Well, I do invite you to come with me on this journey of hope. Today Jesus speaks about our connection with him and other believers. "I am the gate for the sheep," says Jesus. When we enter through him we become members of a family of believers. All of us belong to some kind of family. Pastor Rick Warren writes, "Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old and inevitably, death." We know that sadness and on Mother's Day that sadness can be particularly intense. But it should not lead us to despair. Pastor Warren continues:

 "Our spiritual family - our relationship to other believers - will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships." 

 Belonging to a spiritual family does not happen magically. It involves God's grace and our response. The response requires time, work and sacrifice. Here at St. Mary of the Valley, I have been inviting parishioners to a Stewardship of Time - a discipline of daily prayer and then to offer small "javelin-prayers" during the day. Two weeks ago we initiated all-night Eucharistic Adoration. About 80 people signed up and it has already brought great blessings to individuals, families and our overall parish. How about you, my brother, my dear sister? Would you consider an hour of prayer before Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament? Come as you are. Bring your Bible, your rosary, your notebook, even your iPad or iPhone. My young priest friends have phone apps for the Liturgy of Hours and other prayers. The only rule is to give the gift of silence to those with you in the Adoration Chapel.  

 This Sunday I want to offer another prayer opportunity. Many people expressed an interest in making a retreat. In the chairs you will see a booklet for a "Do-It-Yourself Retreat" called "33 Days to Morning Glory." I've wanted to make this retreat for a long time. It has a reflection for every day and if you begin with me now, you can complete it on June 13 - the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. Take home one of the free booklets. It will become a beautiful part of our journey to hope.  

 As I mentioned, hope does not come magically. St. Peter refers to patient suffering. All of us - perhaps especially moms - experience suffering. Next week I will address the role of suffering in the journey to hope. It's not an easy topic and I am a little shy about it since I know people who have suffered so much more than I have. But it's a necessary theme. It will help us learn why Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." But that's for next week.  

 For today remember: By opening oneself to Jesus, to his mercy, you connect with every believer and you become part of a spiritual family. Jesus himself is the gate, the door to that enduring home. Because of Jesus, we can pray:

 Even though I walk in the dark valley
 I fear no evil; for you are at my side
 with your rod and your staff
 that give me comfort. Amen. 

From Fr. David V. Meconi, SJ 

The Good Shepherd 

Purpose: The Good Shepherd is a savior to whom most of us would not be initially attracted: they were sweaty and stinky men who spent most of their lives with sub-human animals. Yet they were men who literally laid their life down not just for the sheep entrusted to their care, but even for the society who depended on this way of life for their general well-being.  Today’s readings depict Christ loving us this way—yet, not only loving those naturally below him but even becoming one of them in his divine condescension.  his must then be the only power and the pattern of our own service and sacrifice. Today I would focus on (1) the image and meaning of the Good Shepherd, (2) stress the unity between Shepherd and sheep, and (3) introduce or re-introduce the good work of the     Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in our parishes. 

The image of the Good Shepherd is among the earliest in Christian art and iconography.  The first examples are patterned upon the much older Greek pagan kriophoros which depicts a concerned shepherd boy with a lamb draped carefully over his shoulders. In this image, the very image Christ uses to show us his care for us, we are invited to see how some have abandoned all pretense to superiority in order to become one with those (even animals) entrusted to their care.

Every society has a class of worker who is more than willing to take on the jobs others don’t want due to their own pride, out of fear of being marginalized, or eve simply because they are holding out for a more just wage.  These humble(d) folk surround our everyday existence and we can often pass by them without noticing or some special acknowledgement—the teen who just waited on us, the person who just cleared up after us, and so on.   Shepherds were part of the ignored working class of antiquity: outcasts who lived in the mountains, and so were always dirty and smelly, but who more importantly provided a service for all the people around them.  While David raised the profile of the shepherd boy for a time, the pasturing of sheep and goats was outlawed in the confines of Jerusalem—shepherds were thus forced to stick to the desert plains—and some Mishnah (Judaism’s oral tradition) refer to shepherds as bungling and not worthy of being drawn from a pit if they have fallen. 

In using this image of the outcast, we see in the image of the shepherd the constant and incessant way our heavenly Father chooses to labor in the world.  He chooses the weak to make them strong (cf. 1 Cor 1:27).  Wasn’t it to shepherds the Good News of the world’s salvation was first announced?  The poor are ready to receive, unashamed to admit they cannot save themselves or be the source of their own felicity.  This is how the Kingdom of God appears in this world: always creating a new order in complete contrast to the world’s understanding of might and success.  This is why we are so slow to understand what God can be doing when we would approach a situation vastly different than he; this is why he is working out a true victory and not just a temporary solution.  Death will be overcome forever through Love, and this is why the Good Shepherd must lay down his life.  True love demands suffering, the taking on of the beloved’s condition, love demands total union—so the Shepherd becomes a sheep: Behold the Lamb of God! 

This transformative movement of love is exactly what Pope Francis famously captured at last year’s Chrism Mass.  He reminded us clerics that we must mirror the Church’s life and never turn within, but always seek to be one with our people: 

The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests – in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odor of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odor of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men

As Francis would put it, the Good Shepherd is never “self-referential”, but comes as one who longs to be wholly one with the sheep.  Jesus Christ is therefore both the kenotic God who takes on the opprobrium of being a lowly sheep herder (fully man), while also being the only shepherd who is able to defeat the powers that seek to destroy the flock (fully God).  How he does this, through patient suffering and supposed defeat, we in the world might not understand, but today we are to think about we are healed only through his wounds (cf. 1 Pt 2:24). 

Finally, if your parish has the wonderful benefit of having the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, this would be an opportune time to make this beautiful way of teaching God’s little ones known.  The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ( was founded in Rome in the mid-1950s by the scripture scholar Sofia Cavalletti and her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi.  Approached by an insistent mother to educate her child in the Faith, Sofia initially demurred but eventually agreed to teach this 7 year old the story of salvation.  Sofia and Gianna developed an atrium wherein children would hear the bible story and then be offered the opportunity to appropriate and manifest the story through their own experience and through the atrium materials.  An atrium is truly a holy place, where the great Schoolmaster teaches his children through the careful tenderness of touch and word. One of the more popular presentations with the little ones is story of the Good Shepherd.  Upon the catechist’s proclaiming today’s Gospel, I have seen boys and girls run to get the Shepherd and set him up with careful devotion.  They then love to place him between his sheep and the menacing thieves whom they have placed just inches away; they then explained how these marauders are too scared of the Good Shepherd to come close to his little lambs.  It is so wonderful to see how the children instinctively intuit the importance of safety: how they see themselves in the innocent lambs, and how they see in Christ the source of their security.  If only our faith were so simple, so trusting. 


From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil 

1.     Moses, the shepherd-leader:  

The Jews had a lovely legend to explain why God chose Moses to be the leader of his people. "When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young kid ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses got up to it, he said: `I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.' He took the kid on his shoulders and carried it back. Then God said: `Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to a man, you shall lead my flock Israel.'"  

2.     Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers.  

When the emperor Alexander the Great was crossing the Makran Desert on his way to Persia, his army ran out of water. The soldiers were dying of thirst as they advanced under the burning sun. A couple of Alexander's lieutenants managed to capture some water from a passing caravan. They brought some to him in a helmet. He asked, "Is there enough for both me and my men?" "Only you, sir," they replied. Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched. Instead of drinking, he tipped it over and poured the water on the ground. The men let up a great shout of admiration. They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to suffer himself.  

3.     “It will kill you if you move.”  

A soldier dying on a Korean battle field asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand. 

4.     "I guess you must be a sheep dog."

A pastor was discussing the 23rd Psalm with some children in his congregation. He told the children about sheep, that they weren't smart and needed lots of guidance, and that a shepherd's job was to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals and keep them from wandering off. He pointed to the little children in the room and said that they were the sheep and needed lots of guidance. Then the pastor put his hands out to the side, palms up in a dramatic gesture, and with raised eyebrows said to the children, "If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?" He was pretty obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young girl said, "Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd." The young pastor, obviously caught by surprise, said to the little girl, "Well then, who am I?" The girl frowned thoughtfully and then said with a shrug, "I guess you must be a sheep dog."  

5.     Pastor’s vacation:  

It's been said that every pastor ought to have six weeks of vacation each year, because if he is a really good shepherd, he deserves it; and if he is not a very good shepherd, his congregation deserves it.  

6.     "May I see your driver's license?"  

Everyone, it seems, is interested in my numbers. I go to the grocery store to buy some groceries. After the checkout woman rings up my bill, I pull out my checkbook and write out the check. She takes it from me. She looks at the information. Numbers tell her where I live. Numbers tell her how to reach me on the telephone. "Is this information correct?" she asks.” Yes, it is," I reply. "May I see your driver's license?" she asks. She looks at my driver's license and writes some more numbers on my check. Finally, I am approved. The numbers are all there. I can eat for another week. One could wish it were a bit more human and personal. So the IRS knows me by my tax number. My state knows me by my driver's license number. My bank knows me by my bank account number. My employer knows me by my social security number. On and on it goes for you, for me, for everybody. Everybody knows my numbers. I am not sure that anyone knows me! The numbers game that is played in our culture is one symptom of loneliness and alienation that surrounds us today. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?" That is a line from an early song by the Beatles. Loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. These are the realities of contemporary civilized life. "I am the good shepherd." Those were Jesus' words in our reading from John's gospel text for this sermon. "I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me ..."  

7.     Jesus knows his sheep by name:  

There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon, "who knew thousands of his soldiers by name . . .” or James A. Farley, "who claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name . . .” or Charles Schwab, "who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill . . .” or Charles W. Eliot, "who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year . . .” or Harry Lorayne, "who used to amaze his audiences by being introduced to hundreds of people, one after another, then giving the name of any person who stood up and requested it.” (7) But can you imagine Christ knowing all his sheep by name? That's millions and millions of people over 2,000 years. No wonder we call him Master, Lord, Savior – watching over his flock, calling each by name. 

8.     “I only know them by name."  

Tony Campolo loves to tell the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie." It was then that the census taker interrupted her aid said: "No, ma'am, that's not necessary. I only need the humans." "Ah," she said. "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and...." But there once again, the census taker interrupted her. Slightly exasperated, he said, "No, ma'am, you don't seem to understand. I don't need their names, I just need the numbers." To which the old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today’s gospel Jesus the good shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name.  

9.     “I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility."  

About 4 years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to "Dallas Maverick." When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan's favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching, and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban no. Kaplan explained: "I'd be saying I'd do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility." Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune (1/10/01), Leadership Summer 2001) The name "Christian" is our birthright. From the moment of our baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. The Voice of the Shepherd protects us. 

10.  His master’s voice:  

Have you ever seen the painting done in the 1930s of a dog, looking with a cocked head, at an old gramophone? The name of the painting is His Master's Voice, and it's a symbol of what Jesus is saying to us. "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." 

11.  “I know the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.”  

A famous actor was the guest of honor at a social gathering. As people gathered around, they asked the actor to recite excerpts from various literary works. He obliged and did so brilliantly. Finally, an elderly pastor asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor hesitated at first and then agreed on one condition. The pastor would return the favor. The actor’s recitation was brilliant and eloquent. People responded to the actor with lengthy applause. The pastor’s rendition was feeble and frail. But when the pastor finished, there was not a dry eye in the house. Finally, the actor broke the silence with these words: “I know the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Do you know the Shepherd? Have you found Him to be good? Have you discovered He is all you need? 

12.  “Then we FLEECE them!”  

Two television evangelists were talking. One was explaining how he was seeking to be the ideal shepherd to his television flock. “There are three ways I seek to do that,” he said. “What three ways do you mean?” asked the other evangelist. “Well” he explained, “First, we FIND them. Every year we find new stations to carry our ministry. Then we FEED them. I give them the plain unvarnished word of God.” “But what’s the third thing?” asked the second evangelist. “Well,” he answered, “Once we’ve found them and fed them, then we FLEECE them!” Some TV evangelists have become quite proficient at fleecing their flock. I hope you understand that nothing could be farther from the example of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .” Fleecing the flock is a long way from laying down your life for them. 

13.  “But I never jumped.”  

A paratrooper who had recently resigned from the military was asked how many times he had jumped out of an airplane. He said, “None.” A friend of his asked, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times . . . but I never jumped.” The hired hand never jumps. He has to be pushed. Churches often have hired hands in them. Not our church, of course. But other churches are full of people who have to be pushed to do what they know they ought to do. Jesus did not have to be pushed.

9) “I give my life for my sheep”: We applaud when a man or woman gives his or her life for another. Such instances do come along from time to time. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. May 28, 1989: "Former NFL football player Jerry Anderson," read the newspaper account, "died Saturday after pulling two young boys out of a rain-swollen river about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Witnesses said Anderson saw two boys, thought to be 11 or 12 years old, attempting to cross a dam spanning the river. One or both boys fell into the water. According to Officer Bill Todd, ‘Mr. Anderson jumped in the water and managed to get the little boys out, but witnesses said he went under two or three times and about the fourth time, he didn't come back up.’" He gave his life to rescue two small boys. Of course, you don't have to be an American or a football player for such heroic actions. In a Middle school in the Ukrainian village of Ivanichi a young teacher died sometime back. He absorbed the blast of a hand grenade to protect his pupils. What was a grenade doing in a middle school? According to the London Times, the teacher, a graduate of the KGB border guard college, had been delivering the military instruction that is a compulsory part of the curriculum for Soviet children. He was teaching them how to handle what should have been an unarmed grenade. When he pulled the pin a wisp of smoke showed that a live grenade had become mixed in with demonstration grenades, and he gave his life. You don't have to be a man to perform such heroics. Many years ago a woman carrying a baby through the hills of South Wales, England, was overtaken by a blizzard. Searchers found her later frozen to death in the snow. Amazed that she had on no outer garments, they searched further and found her baby. She had wrapped them around the child, who was still alive and well. He grew up to be David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War I. 

14.  Big Brother is watching us:  

Ever since 1984 hit the bookstores, people concerned about individual privacy and freedom have looked for signs that Big Brother is becoming a reality in our society. And it is true that more and more of our urban landscape is being observed by security cameras. But that is only one way our privacy is being invaded. There was a news report several years ago that Israeli scientists are now marketing a microchip that, implanted under the skin, will protect film stars and millionaires from kidnappers. The chip emits a signal detectable by satellite to help rescuers determine a victim’s approximate location. Originally the chip was developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. The $5,000 chip doesn’t even require batteries. It runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. The firm which developed it, Gen-Etics, won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but said that, at that time, 43 people had had it implanted. Since this report was published there has been an explosion of interest in this technology. Farmers keep tabs on the health and safety of their cows and other livestock with such chips. But the use of such devices to monitor human beings is almost limitless. Already there is a monitoring bracelet for Alzheimer patients, so that families can use GPS systems to help find loved ones who might have wandered off. Would it be inconceivable that loving parents might want to monitor the whereabouts of their children via satellite? Why not have a chip implanted. Pet owners are already using such technology. Some cynics have suggested that some wives might want to monitor their husbands. Soon we will see signs, “Big Brother is watching.” Here’s what’s amusing to me. There are people who have no difficulty believing that one day the government will keep track of us all, but who cannot conceive that an all-knowing God can take a personal interest in each of His children, hear each of our prayers, and be responsive to each of our individual needs. 

15.  Images are highly influential 

They become emblazoned on the wall of our minds, and they evoke a wide range of responses. Millions of people will remember the fireman carrying the baby out of the ruins of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. World War II veterans, particularly the ones who served in the South Pacific, will always remember Mount Surabachi and the Marines who raised an American flag at its summit, as well as the image of General MacArthur returning to the Philippines. Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in the early '70s is frozen in many memories, too. If you were old enough to watch and understand television in l963, you probably remember young John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the casket of his father Jack. Much closer to our own time, many of us will long retain the image of students running out of Columbine High School with their hands over their heads. Some images are immensely powerful and have a tenacity that is tireless and timeless. If there is one image associated with the Christian faith which, more than any other, has found an enduring place within the collective life of the Christian church, it is the image of Jesus as the good shepherd.  

16.  Hannah and Her Sisters

A recent movie by Woody Allen was titled, Hannah and Her Sisters. The movie deals precisely with that theme. It is about Hannah and her sisters and how family life gives some sense of stability to life in a fractured world. The part played by Woody Allen in the movie is the part of a man who is constantly afraid that he will get some terrible disease. He is what we call a hypochondriac. As he comes into the movie, we see him on his way to the doctor. The doctor assures him that nothing seems to be terribly wrong, though some additional tests need to be made. Woody cannot calm himself over these additional tests. He is sure they will find something terrible. "What are you afraid of," one of his friends asks him, "cancer?" "Don't say that," Woody responds with a look of terror. More tests are performed. A cat scan is prescribed for his head. He is sure they will find a brain tumor. But his fears are unfounded. The doctor announces to him that all is well. In the next scene we see Woody coming out of the hospital, kicking up his heels, and running joyfully down the street. He is celebrating. But suddenly he stops. We know instinctively why he stops. He tells us in the next scene. "All this means," he says, "is that I am all right this time. Next time it will probably be serious.” Our lives are lived in constant danger. Woody Allen's character overplays the danger. But the danger is there. There are all kinds of realities that imperil our lives nearly every day. Accidents might befall us. Natural disasters strike. Oppressive structures of life weigh us down. Disease stalks us and death awaits. That is the way life is. We live our lives in constant peril. Woody Allen might have exaggerated a bit, but he is right. Human life is an endangered species. Death calls a halt to every human life. "I am the good shepherd," Jesus says. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." 

17.  The Bismarck:  

In the beginning of World War II, the Nazis commissioned a massive battleship named the Bismarck. It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had seen up to that time. With the Bismarck the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas. Very soon after it was commissioned, the Bismarck sank tons of Allied shipping and allied aircraft. Its massive armor plating resulted in the boast that the Bismarck was unsinkable. But the Bismarck was sunk. And it was sunk due to one lone torpedo. A torpedo hit the Bismarck in the rudder. As a result the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor. It was only a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it. No matter how large the battleship may be, it is doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the waters of chaos without a rudder, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the direction of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without the Lord, the world is headed toward chaos. But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life.